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Apartment Builder Says Denied Fresno Project Meets Code. He Wants Mayor to Appeal Decision.
gvw_edward_smith
By Edward Smith
Published 3 weeks ago on
May 23, 2024

An apartment developer sent a letter to Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer asking him to bring his project to the city council for a hearing after planning commissioners denied the project. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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The developer who proposed a 4-story apartment building in a northwest neighborhood says the Fresno Planning Commission unjustly shot down the project.

He’s now asking Mayor Jerry Dyer to bring the matter before Fresno City Council.

GV Wire acquired a letter from James Huelskamp, managing member of LandValue Management, stating that the Lincoln Park Apartments meet all of Fresno’s requirements and the planning commission based its decision on unfounded claims.

On Thursday, a group of local housing activists with The Greenfield Coalition sent a similar letter to Councilmember Mike Karbassi calling on him to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision, saying that denying the project was wrong. The group said they agree with Huelskamp’s letter to Dyer.

City Communications Manager Sontaya Rose directed questions to the City Attorney’s office. The City Attorney’s office didn’t return a request for comment from GV Wire.

Huelskamp says the denial might go against city and state codes.

The project has 15 calendar days after the May 15 decision to receive an appeal.

“The Planning Commission’s decision to uphold the appeals of the approval of Development Permit P21-00989 is not based in fact or applicable code, may constitute a violation of the California Housing Accountability Act, and therefore should be reversed by the City Council and the project approved,” the letter acquired by GV Wire states.

Huelskamp: Commission Decision Not Based on Data

City Councilmember Mike Karbassi, whose district the project would be in, said he is reviewing the letter as well as the public hearing. Only he or Dyer can file an appeal.

“Only after reviewing all the information including the public comment by residents who are impacted by the project will I make a final decision on an appeal,” Karbassi said.

The planning commission unanimously denied the project on May 15 after nearly two hours of public comment opposing the project. Neighbors said the 82-unit apartment complex at Herndon and Prospect avenues would increase traffic and clog up parking.

Commission chair Peter Vang agreed, saying it violated the city’s General Plan.

“(The apartment) does not take into account the significant growth within the city of Fresno,” Vang said at the meeting. “The fact that we’re having this four- and three-story apartment complex is going to have issues in regards to traffic that would be detrimental to the public.”

The Planning Commission denied the Lincoln Park Apartments May 15, 2023. (GV Wire Composite)

Huelskamp countered by saying the project is 100% compliant with code.

Where traffic was the main concern from residents, city staff said during the hearing that the market-rate project didn’t generate enough trips to warrant a traffic study.

Using a common project trip calculus, project architect Scott Vincent estimated 31 trips in the morning and 36 in the evening at peak hours.

Huelskamp said the commission’s vote to deny to project based on traffic is not one based on data.

“No factual data was cited or presented by opponents to counter staff’s finding that traffic counts calculated do not rise to a level requiring further study,” the letter states.

Planning Commission’s Denial May Violate State Law: Huelskamp

Vincent, during his presentation to the commission, noted how the developer designed the project to match the neighborhood and reduced the number of units from 88 to 82 to provide privacy buffers from the 4-story building to the single-story buildings nearby.

In his letter, Huelskamp said denying the project may violate California’s Housing Accountability Act, which prohibits discretionary denials of housing projects.

“We are therefore concerned that the Planning Commission’s denial of this project, if allowed to stand, will constitute a violation of the HAA,” the letter said.

In its letter to Karbassi, The Greenfield Coalition, said decisions to deny housing projects require factual data that demonstrates a “specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety.”

“We believe letting the Planning Commission’s non-factual process that led to denial of the multifamily project proposed for the corner of Herndon and Prospect stand, clearly places the City of Fresno in a vulnerable position defending such an action,” the letter stated.

Greenfield Coalition members who signed onto the letter include Miguel Arambula, who sits on a number of housing-related boards, former Fresno city planner Keith Bergthold, attorney Patience Milrod, and co-owner of affordable housing developer Jessica Hoff Berzac.

Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias said allowing NIMBY arguments to kill housing projects puts the city at risk for lawsuits.

“If we allow a planning commission of north Fresno residents and NIMBY arguments to kill this market rate housing, we will not only return to the tale of two cities era but become ‘one segregated Fresno’ with higher homeless rates that places future state housing funds and city general funds for pointless lawsuits at risk,” Arias said.

 

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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